Do you think they laugh at us?
I’ve often tried to avoid casting them as cartoon villains – the Tories, the ‘Establishment’, etc. They’re a mixture – some are mistaken, some are ignorant, and yes, granted, some know exactly what they’re doing but don’t give a shit. The leaking of the Panama Papers, however, brought up this question again in my mind.
As it turns out, the disease of tax avoidance is much bigger than previously though, with a whole bevy of politicians and members of the elite having been involved in a tax-avoidance/money laundering network based in Panama, organised by the shadowy firm Mossack Fonesca. From mates of Vladimir Putin to David Cameron’s dad, it seems no one is to be trusted.
Tax avoidance in and of itself isn’t news – even tax avoidance by organisations associated with members of the British Government – Osborne and Little, a company co-founded by Peter Osborne (and his son, George, still owns a stake), was found to have payed no corporation tax since 2008 for instance. One of the big reveals in the papers, that David Cameron’s father, Ian, was involved with and helped found the tax-avoiding Blairmore Holdings Inc., shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, then, right? Tories are Tories after all.
I’m uncomfortable with this defeatist attitude – and it is defeatist. In 2012 Dave called tax avoidance “morally wrong”. Was he thinking of his father when he said that? In the same year we learnt from good old Gideon that it was “morally repugnant”. How can anyone sigh and let this pass? How can we just look into the middle distance and moan that tax avoidance is tax avoidance and this is hardly news? This doesn’t just show that a lot of people globally are quite dubious, or that we just need to tighten up the law a bit (which we obviously do need to do), but there is an epidemic of moral bankruptcy and rank hypocrisy across the world’s elites. I don’t think that right wingers and the super-rich are automatically child-sacrificing Satanists, but these last days have revealed a truly vile streak in some of our lords and masters and their associates. NHS? Cut it. Tata Steel? Abandon it. State schooling? Privatise it. Corporation tax receipts for Blairmore Holdings or Osborne and Little? Screw them up and throw them in the bin.
The fact that David Cameron isn’t directly involved (his father was his own man, perhaps with different values to good old Dave, if we’re feeling charitable) doesn’t matter. The Panama Papers reveal that things aren’t just bad, they’re rotten to the core, and perhaps by the end of this no one in the Establishment will exit squeaky clean.
See the ICIJ’s exhaustive coverage of the papers here.